What are your website's purposes?
Whether you’re looking to build your first website, or if your existing site just isn’t getting the traffic or leads you were hoping for, this guide will teach you what it really takes to for a website to perform – to attract potential customer, educate them, and convince them to apply / use your service or product. So, without further ado, let’s dive into a comprehensive checklist of the 15 things your website must have or do so you can better generate inquiries, applications, and enrollments.
A great website isn’t so great if no one visits it. This is why the first chapter is dedicated to getting found online, in which we’ll cover various search engine optimization (SEO) must-haves that will help boost awareness of your personal / organization, and subsequently drive more potential for generating leads:
1. MUST-HAVES FOR GETTING FOUND ONLINE
- Inbound links
- On-page SEO (keywords)
- Meta tags for page titles and subscriptions
- 301 redirects
Now that you know how to increase your online visibility to improve inbound traffic to your site, your next focus is getting that traffic to stay there. Just because someone likes your blog post, that doesn’t mean they’re going to schedule a campus tour! This means a large majority of web traffic entering your website leaves without navigating to any other pages. And many times they may never come back. Yikes! Here are some tips you need to consider to improve user experience.
2. MUST-HAVES FOR DESIGN AND USABILITY
Tips for great website design: • Proper use of colors: Use color to draw attention to select elements. Don’t try to make everything jump out. The result will be just the opposite: Nothing will stand out. Pick two to four colors for your template and marketing materials. • Animations, gadgets and media: Using Flash animations because they look cool is the wrong strategy. In most cases it’s best not to use animated background or background music. Only use media and animations to help support content and information. • Layout: Create a clear navigation structure (see the section on Navigation later on), and organize page elements in a grid fashion (as opposed to randomly scattered). Also, don’t be afraid of white space! • Typography: Make sure your website is legible. Use fonts, font sizes and font colors that are easy to read. For easier page scanning, use bullet lists, section headers, and short paragraphs.
- A good first impression:
- Compelling images:
Images can be a powerful element to any website but you need to use them wisely. For example, consider stock photography. Stock images are seen everywhere because they are easily accessible and inexpensive. But are they good to use? Marketing Experiments performed a test comparing the use of stock photography versus real imagery on a website and each of their effects on lead generation. What they found was that photos of real people out-performed the stock photos by 95%. Why? Because stock images tend to be irrelevant. Resist the temptation to use photos of fake smiling students! As a result, take care to place meaningful images on your site. Every image is transmitting a subconscious message to your audience, and sometimes the result is different from what you might expect. Find real students and parents, showcase actual classrooms and dining halls. Don’t let a phony pic screw up your chances at attracting a new lead.
- Clear navigation
- Accessibility and mobile responsiveness
Content is one of the most important aspects of any website. It is what search engines and people are looking for. It’s what drives visitors to your site and turns prospects into leads. Take a look at these next musthaves for creating killer website content.
3. WEBSITE CONTENT MUST-HAVES
- Perceivable value
Not everyone is ready to apply when they first hit your site. And people don’t come there just to get a virtual sales pitch. Remember, it’s not all about you. What’s in it for them? • Offer more than just admissions-specific content. Provide ebooks, whitepapers, videos, and other forms of educational content. This will nurture prospects through your marketing and sales funnel until they are ready to buy. • In admissions content, write as if you are speaking directly to your audience. Use words like “you,” and “we.” Be transparent. Make yourself sound human. Speak their language. • Write your admissions content as if you are helping them solve their problems. Avoid “we are the best” speak and instead use “this is how we help you….”
- Quality content:
Everyone knows having a lot of content is a good thing, but in the days where search engines are getting smarter and buyers are becoming more selective, quality content is truly king. Quality content is a definite must-have for any website.
Some best practices:
• Offer unique content. People love this and so do search engines.
• Write for humans, not search engines. People don’t read like robots.
• Provide value through educational content that answers prospects’ questions.
• Do your research when paying for content that is written by thirdparty services to ensure the content will be up to snuff.
• Keep content fresh. Having news that’s two years old still sitting on your homepage won’t make a great impression. Search engines aren’t fans of outdated content either.
• Know your audience. Providing content that is specific to your buyers will keep them coming to you rather than your competitors.
• Include evidence when needed. If stating facts, numbers, awards, testimonials and etc., try to back it up with a source and give credit where credit is due.
• Know your subject well. You probably don’t want an auto mechanic writing about brain surgery. Accuracy contributes to quality.
- A blog
Blogging is without a doubt one of the most important assets to any inbound marketing strategy, and it’s a perfect complement to your website. Here are some reasons why you really need a blog:
• It creates more, fresh content on your site, which is great for SEO.
• It helps establish you as an industry authority and thought leader.
• It helps drive more traffic and leads back to your website.
• It’s a great channel to converse and engage with your audience and current students or parents.
• It’s a great way to get valuable inbound links!
- Social sharing buttons
Now that you know what it takes to drive traffic and engage visitors with great content, the next step is to get your visitors to convert from a prospect into a lead. You don’t want them leaving your site without providing some information or you’ll lose the opportunity to nurture them until they are ready to apply. Here are some must-haves for increasing your website conversions.
4. MUST-HAVES FOR INCREASING CONVERSIONS
- Effective Calls-To-Action (CTA)
An effective call-to-action (CTA) drives a visitor to take a desired action. CTAs are typically kept above the fold or in clear sight on a page so visitors know where to take the next step. CTAs are the key to lead generation, but they need to be done right to convert traffic into leads.
• Make them bigger and bolder than most other elements on the page, but don’t overdo it.
• Consider colors of the CTA, whether it is a link, button or image. Make them look so good people will want to click on them.
• Offer CTAs that provide value, like guides, whitepapers, estimates, etc. Don’t relay on CTAs like “Contact Us” or “Apply Now” to drive a high volume of new visitors into leads.
- Landing pages and forms
Your CTAs should ideally link to landing pages. Landing pages are used to convert visitors into leads by completing a transaction or by collecting contact information from them. Landing pages direct your visitors to one particular offer without the distractions of everything else on your website, and they consist of:
• A headline and (optional) sub-headline
• A brief description of the offer/CTA
• At least one supporting image
• (Optional) supporting elements such as testimonials or security badges
• And most importantly, a form to capture contact information Flip to the next page to find out best practices for effective landing pages.
It's easy to deliver a website to customer but it's really hard to develop the quality one that take time, knowledge and user experience.
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